Marzano-Validated Best Practices for Online Learning

Are your students getting the most out of their online practice? This question is as important as ever, and our research team at Edmentum was honored to have Marzano Research peer review a research project that our US team conducted for our classroom practice and assessment program, Study Island. Through that review, Marzano confirmed our findings surrounding the effectiveness of Study Island, and we also uncovered four significant best practices to help students get the most out of online practice.

Best Practice 1: Students should practice for at least 30 minutes per week in online programs.

In our research, we learned that students who spent at least 30 minutes per week practicing online experienced significantly more growth than those who did not. This finding is backed up by the results of the meta-analysis on the effectiveness of educational technology applications published by Cheung and Slavin in 2013.

Implementation Tip:

Online practice can be incorporated into the classroom (both in-person and virtually) in several ways. Consider what activities you are currently doing that could be replaced with online practice. For instance:

  • Bell Ringers – 10 minutes/day, 50 minutes/week
  • Independent Practice – 15 minutes a day, 75 minutes/week
  • Formative Assessment – 15–20 minutes a day, 75–100 minutes a week
  • Stations/Centers – 15 minutes every other day, 30–45 minutes/week
  • Homework – 20 minutes/day, 100 minutes/week
  • Exit Tickets – 5 minutes/day, 25 minutes/week 

If you pull together a combination of the activities above, you’ll have no trouble fitting in 30 minutes of practice each week.

Best Practice 2: Distribute practice over several sessions, and include at least one session of 15 minutes or longer.

In our study validated by Marzano Research, we noticed that students who had at least one session of 15 minutes or longer as a part of their 30 minutes of practice each week achieved the best results. Longer sessions allowed students to build their stamina and focus their efforts on a single topic for a longer period. The shorter practice sessions are effective as well; in fact, distributed practice—short practice sessions spaced out over time—is one of the highest-utility learning techniques according to leading research.

Implementation Tip:

When choosing how to incorporate online practice into what you are already doing, choose a minimum of one method that involves sessions of at least 15 minutes.

Best Practice 3: Encourage students to set goals.

Setting a goal and writing it down is widely known as one of the best ways to motivate ourselves to do something. This also holds true for online practice. In our study, we learned that students who set goals, such as earning a set number of Blue Ribbons each week or getting 80 percent correct overall, progressed more reliably than those who did not.

Implementation Tip:

Kick things off by having students write down one or two specific learning goals for online practice that week. Limit the goals to one or two so that students can remember their goals and focus their efforts. Make sure to have the data available for students to easily track their own progress toward the goals that they have set.

Best Practice 4: Allocate a specific time for self-reflection.

School can often move at a frenetic pace, and students may be engaged in practice without ever taking the time to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how it helps them. Encourage students to reflect on their own learning needs. Taking time to self-reflect on their learning allows students to contemplate and internalize what they know and what they still need to work on.

Implementation Tip:

Give students five minutes to reflect on their learning and practice for the day. In that reflection time, encourage them to use these sentence starters to begin their reflection: “One thing I did well today was …,” and “One thing I need to improve is….” Encourage students to revisit the goals that they set in their reflection and guide them to use the reflections to set the next week’s goals.